Curtis leaves citrus in good heart
It’s time for change said retiring New Zealand Citrus Growers (NZCGI) chairman, Rick Curtis.
THE mid-1980s were a time of change for the citrus industry body, with NZCGI formed to meet a need for a change in the levy system. Curtis served his time from1986 as inaugural chairman then in 2005 was coopted back to serve again. With his resignation he said it’s a new time of change for the industry.
“We have spent a lot of time developing a strategy to take us into the future and some really good, experienced board members are there to help deliver it,” he said.
“But like other fruit groups, we need to see a new crop of young leaders come through. There is a lot to be gained from having a shift in leadership. New people bring new ideas and positive change, and that can only be good.”
Curtis was himself a new face when he first took the chair all those years ago. From a sheep and beef farming background in Hawke’s Bay, he spent three years working the mines in Australia until 1986 when he and wife Nici bought the 30 hectare Kerikeri orchard where they grow kiwifruit and lemons.
Although firmly rooted in his local community, he’s always been a big believer in looking offshore to help create a robust citrus industry. But he believes the most important thing industry players can do is work together across all product groups.
“I remember years ago an American grower was over here for a conference and he said ‘you guys really need to stop arguing amongst yourselves’,” he said.
“Most of those issues have been resolved over the years but there is still work to be done.There is far more fruit on the domestic market than we ever envisaged and dealing with that requires a lot of co-operation between growers.”
For Curtis, the biggest development he’d seen in the last 30 years had been the rise of the corporate grower.
“That’s been a good thing in that, as big growers tend to take a long-sighted view, there is a lot more co-operation between regions than there ever was before,” he said.
“I think they should be congratulated for their attitude towards traditional growers. They are big enough to have gone off and done their own thing, but they’ve showed a real willingness to work with others and that makes everybody stronger.”
Wayne Hall has agreed to be interim chair until the formation of the altered structure that is part of the new strategy voted in at last month’s annual meeting. And he said he has big boots to fill.
“Rick has done an outstanding job in leading NZCGI through some excellent and some very difficult seasons and NZCGI is grateful for the time, effort and passion he has put in to leading and organisation,” he said.
“He brought a valuable level of experience in governance to the position and that will be sorely missed.”